Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)?

CBT targets thoughts and behaviours that are contributing to distressing emotions.CBT is an effective treatment that focuses on how our thinking affects mood and behaviour. CBT aims to help a person identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts and to learn practical self-help strategies. CBT can be beneficial for anyone who needs support to challenge unhelpful thoughts that are preventing them from reaching their goals or living the life they want to live. It is based on the understanding that thinking negatively can become a habit, like any other habit, it can be broken. CBT helps to challenge our thoughts, beliefs and attitudes in life. Steps are taken to engage in new, more helpful behaviours in order to increase quality of life.

Most often, our thoughts ‘run away’ with us, and before we know it, the ‘behaviour’ or ‘pattern’ is running at full speed, so to try and work with the problem at this stage is very challenging. CBT can help empower a person to regulate their emotions in order to stay inside a healthy window of tolerance, adding to their own ability to be internally resourced themselves; emotionally, psychologically, mentally and physically.

What conditions does CBT treat?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. Its most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, but can be useful for other mental and physical health problems.

CBT has been shown to help with many different types of problems. These include: anxiety, depression, panic, phobias (including agoraphobia and social phobia), stress, bulimia, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and psychosis.

Can CBT help with stress?

CBT can help you develop the confidence to manage a whole range of stressful situations with more ease and self-confidence.


What are the benefits of CBT therapy?

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy has proved to be effective in helping people who are being treated for depression, panic/anxiety, addictions, behaviour compulsions, eating disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, mood disorders, phobias, and similar behavioural, emotional, and mental health challenges.


How does CBT help anxiety?

CBT is a relatively flexible therapy that can be adapted to meet your particular needs. Evidence suggests it can be an effective treatment for a range of mental health problems, such as: anxiety, panic attacks and bipolar disorder.


10 Psychological Problems Best Treated by Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)

CBT focuses on building an individual’s skillset or coping skills that enable one to become more aware of their thoughts and feelings, identify how situations, thoughts, and behaviours impact one’s feelings and improve the negative feelings by changing dysfunctional thoughts and behaviours. CBT differs from traditional talk therapy because it places a strong emphasis on clients’ skill acquisition and the use of homework assignments. The goal in therapy is not only to solve clients’ current problems or improve clients’ negative feelings but also to build up clients’ toolkits so that they can become effective in solving their own problems in the future.


CBT Can Help With


CBT can help depression mainly through a technique called behaviour activation. Through behaviour activation therapist and client work together to reintroduce pleasant events into the client’s life and this helps to improve the client’s mood by reversing avoidance, increasing physical activity, self-confidence, feelings of usefulness and purpose as well as reducing negative thoughts. Behaviour activation can include many different behaviours. The most common ones are re-introducing prior pleasant activities, introducing new pleasant activities, and coping behaviours that will reduce certain life stressors such as filing taxes, cleaning a messy place, or calling an estranged family member.


Panic Disorder

CBT targets panic disorder through exposing the client to the feared situation. Exposure sessions help clients learn that they can experience the symptoms of arousal without the feared consequences. CBT exercises allow clients to confront the physical sensations associated with panic without letting them spiral into a panic attack. For instance, bodily spinning or hyperventilation can be used in session to induce feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness. Sometimes a hierarchy of challenging situations is created and the client gradually works through the steps with the help of the therapist. Eventually clients develop the attitude that they will deliberately seek out and confront difficult situations.


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Today’s preferred treatment for OCD is weekly CBT therapy sessions that usually include ERP (exposure and response/ritual prevention) exercises. Exposure and response prevention means that first clients expose themselves to the thoughts, images, objects and situations that make them anxious and/or start their obsessions (exposure). Then clients resist doing a compulsive behaviour once the anxiety or obsessions have been triggered (response prevention). This results in decreased anxiety and the ability to reduce or stop compulsions.


Bipolar Disorder

Even though most patients who suffer from bipolar disorder are prescribed medication (usually mood stabilizers), preliminary evidence suggests that CBT is an effective addition to pharmacotherapy. CBT for Bipolar Disorder focuses on psychoeducation and mood regulation. Psychoeducation aims to educate the client on the illness and its consequences, medication options and their side effects, as well as symptoms and early warning signs of episodes. CBT also helps clients identify and track their mood changes, and reduce emotional reactivity through breathing and mindfulness exercises, self-soothing or distraction.


Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Usually, the first line of treatment for ADHD is medication (psychostimulants). However, often medication alone is insufficient for many ADHD sufferers. CBT for ADHD has two main goals – help clients develop coping skills to manage their symptoms and deal with the emotional and functional effects that living with ADHD has on their lives. A very useful technique for clients with ADHD is problem-solving. Patients are encouraged to provide real-life examples of specific problems that illustrate their difficulties and work with the therapist to find suitable solutions. It is also important for the therapist and patient to anticipate some problems that may arise and develop plans to solve or manage them.


Social Phobia/Social Anxiety

CBT therapists help clients form new patterns of thinking and behaving by cultivating positive and realistic thoughts to replace negative and unrealistic thinking.

Cognitive restructuring is especially important for individuals with social anxiety, as they learn to challenge and question the truth of their beliefs. This can be done by providing evidence against the problematic beliefs. Behavioural experiments are also useful in showing individuals that the disastrous events predicted by their irrational beliefs do not end up happening during exposure exercises. This shows clients the falseness of their unhelpful beliefs.


Bulimia Nervosa

The most common treatment method for bulimia is cognitive behavioural therapy. At the illness’ core is negative over-concern with body shape and weight that leads to extreme dieting and other unhealthy weight-control behaviours. Extreme dieting also predisposes the individual to binge eating. CBT treatment focuses on enhancing motivation to change, replacing dieting with regular and flexible patterns of eating, decreasing concern with weight and body shape and preventing relapse. CBT typically eliminates binge eating and purging in 30-50% of all cases, reduces the level of other psychiatric symptoms as well as improves self-esteem and social functioning.


Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

CBT is a highly effective treatment of GAD, reducing not only the main symptoms of anxiety but also the associated depressive symptoms and subsequently improving quality of life. A very effective technique for GAD is called relaxation training. In sessions, clients learn to reduce their muscle tension and shallow breathing as both are linked to stress and anxiety. Two strategies often used in CBT are Paced Respiration, which involves consciously slowing down the breath, and Progressive Muscle Relaxation, which involves systematically tensing and relaxing different muscle groups. Other helpful relaxation strategies include listening to calm music, meditation, yoga and massage.



CBT is now a recommended treatment for schizophrenia,and can be used in conjunction with medications. In CBT, the client discovers that there is a link between their patterns of thinking and their feelings that underlie their distress. CBT also focuses on identifying and disputing clients’ irrational beliefs through guided discovery and behavioural experiments. Behavioural activities can be helpful by engaging the client in situations where they can test the validity of their beliefs and often discover that their beliefs were not correct, which creates a deeper level of information processing.


Fear of Flying/ Flying Phobia

CBT is an effective treatment program for all kinds of phobias. The fear of flying is a common complaint that CBT can treat effectively. Psychoeducation is one of the most crucial components of CBT treatment and is usually supplemented with relaxation training and cognitive techniques. Imaginal exposure exercises are also highly effective. In imaginal exposure, clients imagine a situation where they are getting on a plane, sitting on a plane, and any other situation that induces fear. This would likely increase their anxiety in the short-term. However, as they keep on imagining the same situation over and over, their anxiety decreases and they will be able to handle the real-life situation much better.



Relaxation skills are useful in any kind of stressful situation, including taking a test, speaking in public, having an argument with a spouse, feeling angry at a defiant teenager, road rage, and even sleep problems. Problem-solving strategies can be an effective way to deal with work-related issues (time management, prioritising, difficult boss, etc.), relationship problems or interpersonal difficulties. Most people also have some kind of irrational beliefs that create negative feelings in certain situations. Therefore, anyone can benefit from identifying and disputing irrational beliefs and as a result experience fewer negative emotions and be more effective in their life. Exposure exercises are not only helpful for phobias, but can alleviate all kinds of fears including fear of animals (insects, dogs, etc.), fear of heights, or fear of making mistakes. To sum up, CBT techniques can be a useful addition to all of our lives whether we are suffering from a psychological disorder or dealing with everyday life situations.

Are you ready to make a change?

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